While health experts still warn that people who are pregnant, have difficulty controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar, or experience palpitations or jitteriness should drink just a little java or none at all, the researchers behind the new study say most people should feel free to enjoy coffee -- within limits.
The reason for the heart-protective effect is not fully understood, the researchers said. People who regularly drink coffee typically develop tolerance to coffee's caffeine, which may mean they're less likely to feel its effects. That may put them at decreased risk of high blood pressure, Mostofsky said. Also, antioxidants in the beverage may protect cells from damage, she said.
Some experts expressed some caution about the new study.
"The evidence is not strong enough to recommend that people should drink coffee to protect themselves," said Dr. Arthur Klatsky, an adjunct investigator with the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif. Klatsky was not involved in the study.
Klatsky, who has done research on the relationship between heart rhythm and coffee, said coffee drinking is a lifestyle factor. "It could be that people who drink coffee also exercise more or have better diets," he said.
The bottom line, he said, is that "people should not feel they should avoid coffee if they're at risk for heart failure."
The study was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
To learn the signs of heart failure, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Elizabeth Mostofsky, research fellow, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Arthur Klatsky, M.D., adjunct investigator,
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